After my introduction to summer from a Chinese Medicine perspective (see here) you should now have a basic understanding of the character of this season and with our action plan you should be able to leverage its force and minimize imbalances.
This time I’d like to take a special look at the diet during the summer season: which foods are best consumed or avoided in order to maximise your health and get the most out of those precious summer months?
The Bitter Truth
Summer is a time for happiness and bitterness, at least as far as food is concerned. From an Yin-Yang perspective bitterness is yin, cooling, descending and contracting. It reduces excess heat, and dries and drains inner humidity – perfect against summer heat.
For our physical body bitter flavors ease inflammation and infections; they reduce swelling and encourage bowel movement, which is good news for people trying to lose weight. For the Heart bitterness clears heat and helps to lower the blood pressure. However, the descending and cooling nature of bitterness means it shouldn’t be overdone in summer, unless you have a lot of fire.
So, what are some of these good foods that beat the heat during summer?
Grains | Barley Millet Quinoa Wheat
Vegetables | Asparagus Aubergine Cabbage Celery Cucumber Lettuce Lotus root Lily root Potato Seaweed Turnip Bitter melon Rhubarb
Fruit | Apple Avocado Banana Blueberry Cranberry Fig Grapefruit Lemon Lime Mango Melon Pear Papaya Plum Watermelon
Beans | Kidney Mung-bean Yellow soy Tofu
Fish | Abalone Crab Fresh and salt water clam Octopus
Herbs and Spices | Fuling (China root) Goji(Wolfberry) Liquorice Purslane Tamarind
Beverages | China Pearl tea Chrysanthemum tea Dandelion root Elderflower tea Peppermint tea
Sounds like time to eat salad?
There’s nothing better than a cooling salad when the weather is scorching hot – if you’re lucky enough to be living in such a place. However, did you know that eating salads can be quite a drain on your energy level? You should consider whether you have the energy to spare since salads must be well chewed and your digestive system takes more effort to break down raw foods.
If you exercise a lot or are of a strong build this is less of an issue, as your digestive system will have more heat which should make tackling a salad easier. However, if you are weak, have a little extra around the midriff or on the contrary are very thin or with a weak digestive system, it’s best to avoid raw or cold vegetables in your salad because they drain energy and can cause cold and humidity within the body. A more suitable choice for you would be to lightly stir-fry some vegetables before eating them.
Taking your body constitution into consideration
Not only the season but also your Body Constitution matter when it comes to your ideal diet. If you have already completed our free online diagnosis (check it out) and read your Body Constitution report, you will have a better understanding of your needs.
In general people who are of a naturally strong build, physically active, and show signs of heat and excess (particularly those with a Hot & Humid or Dry fire Body Constitution) might do well to cut down on red meat during summer. An increase in the amount of fruits and cooked vegetables as suggested above will help you to deal with heat and will nourish your heart and spleen.
People who are of a weaker build and who are more sensitive to the cold (such as those with a Cold & Pale or Weak Energy Body Constitution) can use summer to build up more energy and replenish Yang in the body. Eating warming foods such as small amounts of beef can give a boost to the system. Ginger should be a great friend to those than need to grow yang energy in the summer. Bitter and cooling foods as suggested above are still beneficial but can be eaten more moderately.
[staffbio staffname=”Grace Yu” staffimage=”http://orientalbalance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/dr-grace-yu.jpg” stafftitle=”Specialist in Chinese Medicine Gynecology” staffemail=”email@example.com”]Grace Yu obtained her PhD at the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Gynecology. Her adviser and mentor is Professor Luo Songping, an internationally renowned gynecologist. Grace also learned Craniosacral Resonance therapy from an internationally renowned teacher. Read more.[/staffbio]